Canterbury Tales Essay - Comparing The Wife of Bath Prologue and Tale

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The Wife of Bath: Similarities Between the Prologue and the Tale

In The Canterbury Tales, written by Geoffrey Chaucer, The Wife of Bath seems to be one of the more vivacious characters on the pilgrimage. Dame Alice has radical views about women and marriage in a time when women were expected to be passive toward men. There are many things consistent between The Wife of Bath's prologue and her tale. The most apparent similarities that clearly depict the comparison between the prologue and the tale are dominance of both women over their husbands, the duplication of appearance between the old hag and Dame Alice and finally the reality is that the fifth husband and the knight are very alike in personality. Although there are some contrasts amid the prologue and the tale, the resemblance far outweigh them.

To commence, The Wife of Bath, Dame Alice, is dominant over all five of her husbands and although she struggles with her fifth husband to gain the upper hand in the marriage, Dame Alice nevertheless in the end accomplishes her initial intention. Dame Alice seems to be only authentically happy when she has mastery over her husbands. They have to willingly hand over this power, consciously or unconsciously, because without their consent she has a battle on her hands, both challenging the other for ultimate superiority in the relationship. The old hag, likewise, gains control over her husband when the knight places her in the governing position and yet again as seen in the Wife of Bath's Prologue, the knight must consent to give up this power in order for the old hag to acquire it, for if he had not given her control of the partnership, both would have continued unhappily.

Subsequently, a second relationship between the prologue and the tale is the description of both the old hag and the Wife of Bath, at least physically concerned. The Wife of Bath describes herself as old and lethargic, "But age, allas, that al wol envenime, Hath me biraft my beautee and my pith." (Chaucer: line 481-482). Although the physical description of Dame

Alice is not as unpleasant as the portrait of the old woman, there is notable mimicry between the two women. The old woman is described by the knight as, "A fouler wight ther may no man devise." (Chaucer: line 1005), the old woman also quotes him later as saying she was "foul and old" (Chaucer: line 1219).
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